Nolita Cantina, Liverpool

Last week, we talked about Americana and how it’s so huge in food at the moment. Well I talked and you listened… That’s how our relationship works really.. Ever since London got all the fun of Pitt Cue and Barbecoa and vans under railway bridges, we’ve stared up at our big sister’s living the dream and wondered how long we’d have to wait for Lucky Chicken, Dirty Burger, Chicken Dirty Dirty Burger.

And this is why I ran, like a teenager towards Harry Styles, to Free State Kitchen when it opened the other week. That had been on my list to try for a while, as had Nolita Cantina on Bold Street.

Nolita Cantina is at the bombed-out-church end of Bold Street. The name ‘Nolita’ stems from a district in New York City: ‘North of Little Italy’ and ‘Cantina’ meaning, in Spanish, ‘a bar that serves food’. Opened by two girls who worked together in a kitchen and who are girls who really get good food, this is the latest in a smattering of new-ish openings to what is becoming a seriously trendy indie part of town. We ventured there on a recent Friday evening and the place was buzzing when we arrived. They explained that we could queue and wait for a table and whilst we were at the stage of gnawing off each other’s hands, we thought this might be an idea. They were friendly and attentive while we waited and bought drinks to us so what was quite a long wait, didn’t feel too bad. And the smell coming from the kitchen is enough to bring desperate tears to the eyes, if I could bottle it and wear it as a perfume without strange looks then I would. The building itself is a bit of a personal mecca. It’s long been the building that I’ve wanted to open a bakery in and so I would wander past and press my nose to the window and envision my counter and my kitchen and my shelves of freshly baked items. Whilst I’m sad that someone has taken my dream premises, it’s lovely to see the building being used and loved as it had been open for a long time.

While we waited, Fiona and David ordered a bottle of house wine and I had a gin and tonic. I often judge a place on its gin and tonic abilities and this was a really good one. A huge tumbler stuffed with ice and just the right amount of gin and tonic to knock the edge off a working week. I would have moved in for the gin alone. The menu is a great list of all the things you’ve seen in films and on Man.vs.Food and wanted to bake from American blogs. If you’ve dreamed of eating it, deep fried or otherwise, you’ll find it on their menus. There are hush puppies and corndogs and buffalo wings and buffalo chicken blasts and frickles, oh man the frickles, and then slightly further down the menu are deli-sandwiches and then further again pulled things and ribs and finally about 8 serious burgers with serious toppings.

We ummed and ahhed over what to start with. Fiona and I shared corndogs and hush puppies with sour cream and blue cheese dips, and some frickles chosen at the last minute. David went for the chicken blasts. As we sat and waited for our starters, there was a lovely hum of happy chatting coming from the restaurant and those amazing smells from the kitchen. Our orders arrived and they were served in little diner style baskets, which I love, ever since a childhood addiction to films like Grease and programmes like Saved by the Bell. The corndogs were served with American mustard (I would bathe in American mustard if I could find a large enough pot of it!) and ketchup and crispy and deep fried, without being greasy. The hush puppies I’d wanted to try for a long time, I have a recipe for them taken from an American baking blog and I’ve never got round to it, they were lovely. Like a cheesy potato cake, but soft and savoury. David’s blasts were lovely, apparently. I can’t offer you much more of a description than that but we didn’t get to try them so they must have been a success. He says that any combination of mozzarella and chicken and deep fried is a good thing, though. And to the frickles, O M G, fan-frickle-tastic. Deep fried, battered, gherkins, could you actually ask for anything better. Gherkins, deep fried in batter…. Sorry, I think you lost me for a moment there.

On to mains, David had a burger smothered in blue cheese and bacon, Fiona chose the pulled pork option and I went for the pastrami topped gem. I have been searching for the perfect pastrami, you (and I am grateful) have been accompanying me on this journey, and let me stop you right now and tell you’ve I found it. Back to that in a second. The burgers are delightful, soft, tender, full of flavour and obviously made from great quality beef. They come served in the ubiquitous smarter burger bun with sesame seeds, fresh and delicious. Each came with a tray of potato and sweet potato fries, which we decided were much nicer than boring old just regular potato fries and which had been shaken in a lovely savoury salt. There was also a heap of delicious, light and fresh coleslaw, so far so good. Fiona’s pulled pork was melt in the mouth soft, tangy and full of seasoning. David’s blue cheese and bacon was generous and the perfect contrast to the soft, sweet burger and my pastrami, well this is what we’ve all been waiting for. ACTUAL BLOODY PASTRAMI PERFECTION. I capitalised that, and risked my father’s wrath for saying bloody on the internet, just so you know how amazingly, brilliantly life changing it was. Soft as fillet steak, awash with peppercorns and flavour, thin as a very thin thing, tumbling, cascading over my burger. This is the pastrami that I’ve been looking for and it’s on Bold Street. Also available in a Reuben sandwich, it was a thing of tear-jerking beauty.

We passed on puddings, because we were so full, but both Fiona and my attentions were captured by a board featuring such things as Oreo Cookie cheesecake and other baked, sticky, fattening delights. All in all, I think this is a brilliant restaurant, which has a queue snaking outside on almost every night. The atmosphere is great, the service was attentive and friendly and the food actually brilliant. Of the options to eat this kind of food in Liverpool, I would choose this one a hundred times over. Great, great, great. Now, time to hunt out some more frickles…

Pictures below are awfully dark, it was awfully dark in there. That’s fine, they didn’t design it so I could take photos and stick them on the internet and I would rather hand over my phone than . Believe me when I say it looked as good as it tasted.

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